Mayor Parker is headed to Washington D.C. this week for meetings with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood and members of Congress. She will reiterate her support for METRO’s planned expansion of light rail and seek reconsideration of the cancellation of NASA’s Constellation program. The mayor’s visit is part of a broader effort to save the manned space flight program that involves the local congressional delegation, Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership, the Greater Houston Partnership and the city.
The trip follows a personal letter sent last week in which Mayor Parker urged President Obama to cease current efforts to terminate the Constellation program. “Human space flight is vital to the Houston economy,” Parker wrote. “The Constellation program would help our Johnson Space Center workforce transition effectively as the Shuttle is retired from active service. Without Constellation, we could lose anywhere from 4,000 to 7,000 high-tech jobs. The economic impact to Houston and the region would be devastating, on the order of $560 million.”
Mayor Parker is a strong supporter of expansion of light rail in Houston and she wants to make sure the Federal Transit Administration knows that. The President’s budget proposal includes $900 million for the next phase of rail. “I strongly believe the funding is secure,” said Parker. “However, due to the revelations of the last few weeks and the ongoing district attorney’s investigation, it is important that Washington hear from me that Houston remains committed to this project.”
Concerned about an apparent lack of transparency, the mayor appointed transition teams to look at METRO’s finances, regional coordination, light rail plans and basic services. She has called for new management at the transit agency. To that end, she will be announcing new city appointees for the METRO board later this week.